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We all know we’re supposed to rinse off fruits and vegetables before we eat them, especially those known as the dirty dozen. We’re aware of the potential harm of ingesting pesticides and fruit wax. But much like the uncertainties surrounding gluten and microwaves, we often find ourselves waffling — how bad is that waxy stuff, really? And is rinsing really necessary? 

What does the Fruit wax do? 

Fruit wax has a few purposes. The most obvious is to extend the shelf life of the fresh produce. As they grow, fruits produce a natural waxy coating that inhibits mold growth, protects the fruit from some microbes, and keeps them from dehydrating too quickly or becoming too saturated with rainwater. When farmers pick the fruits, these natural coatings are removed as the fruit is washed. 

Then, we’re left with a problem: the perishability of food. These days, most fresh produce is packed into boxes in one location and shipped to another over a period that would typically make the fruit go bad. Adding a wax of some kind keeps moisture, mold, and insects away from the fruit, preventing the considerable food loss in our world today from hiking even higher. [1] 

But that’s not all the wax coatings do for fruit. We’ve all seen the difference between the dusty, pale-colored natural fruits freshly picked from the tree and the brightly colored fruit at the grocery store. The added wax brightens colors and gives the fruit a bit more shine, making it more appealing to the shopper. This is much like what food artists do for fast food restaurants, as they make the food in commercials look much juicier and more enticing than the food you get from the drive-thru. 

Where did Fruit wax Start? 

Food wax has been around for a long timeprobably longer than you’d expect. In the 12th and 13th centuries, farmers in China would pack their citrus fruits in wooden boxes and then fill them with wax. The wax protected the fruit from spoiling, dehydration, and insect damage. In the early 15th century, the Japanese began making a food preservative by boiling soy milk. The result was an edible film called “Yuba.”  

In the 16th century, the English used lard for a similar purpose. The fat kept water and mold off stored food, preserving it like wax does today. The Japanese used an edible film produced by boiling soy milk, called yuba, to protect their foods. 

In the 1800s, Americans preserved foods in their pantries with gelatin, sugar, or salt coatings. That’s where we got aspics, candied ginger, and salt pork, for example. Another option was to soak the fruit in brandy. It was common to have brandied apples or pears in the pantry, which could be served as a dessert. In the 1920s, a California company called Brogdex started preserving fruit commercially, using a kerosene-and-wax mixture. [2] 

In recent years, fruit wax has come from two natural sources: carnauba wax, from the carnauba palm tree in Brazil, and shellac, a wax secreted by an Asian insect, the lac beetle. These natural waxes have been used on produce safely for decades.  

For a long time, humans have been trying to find ways to extend the shelf life of food – one of the reasons we have refrigerators today. However, scientists are never satisfied with the status quo. They are always wanting to innovate and create new methods of preservation. Unfortunately, food innovations tend to take us farther and farther away from nature, creating new proteins and fats that are new to our bodies. That’s where problems may arise. 

What are the Potential Downsides to These Fruit Waxes? 

The purpose of applying wax or other coatings to fruits and vegetables is to extending their shelf-life by protecting them from mold and bacteria. That’s what these synthetic peels and glazes are advertised to do, and it’s an understandable reason for using them.  

The unfortunate thing is that they don’t all do that. In some waxes, a reduction in the microbial population is noticed within thirty minutes. In others, there’s no significant difference at all. [3]  

Beyond that, we generally know the nutritional makeup of an apple. We may even know if we have an allergy to apples. What we don’t know is the makeup of that wax and if we have an allergy to its ingredients. When you add something to a food – if you add wax to an apple or black pepper to a baked potato – you change its nutritional makeup. You must consider all parts of what is made before you know what you’re eating. 

Aside from the potential allergies, some of the waxes used on fruits are petroleum-based, like food dyes. [4] Others are made of shellac-based wax or resin. Any of these waxes can trigger the body’s immune response.  

Some experts will point out that the food wax is indigestible, so it will pass through the body, unabsorbed. [2] This does not, however, mean that the foreign substances in the wax don’t impact the body. Anything you take into or put on your body can impact it, even if that effect isn’t obvious initially. This is why it’s just as essential to keep your deodorant, makeup, and lotions as toxin-free as your food. 

What are the Fruit Waxes Looking Like, These Days? 

These days, many of the preservatives on fruits, vegetables, and other foods claim to be edible and made of “food-grade” ingredients. Others claim to be made of plant-derived materials and completely natural. Do these claims truly make the wax or edible peels safe to consume? Not necessarily. Let’s take Edipeel as an example. The product claims to be made from primarily organic, plant-derived materials. That doesn’t mean everything within it is organic. In fact, “primarily organic” can apply to a mixture in which only 70% of the ingredients are organic. [5] 

As we’ve said before, grapeseed oil is a substance you want to stay away from. So, when Edipeel claims to be made from things like grapeseed oil, take it as a red flag. [6] Grapeseed oil is very high in polyunsaturated fats. [7] While this, in and of itself, is not bad, it can easily throw your omega-3 balance out of homeostasis by supplying a lot of omega-6s and omega-9s, which can cause inflammation. [8] 

You also want to watch out for edible peels or waxes made of monoglycerides or diglycerides. Mono- and diglycerides combine within the body to form triglycerides. A high number of triglycerides in the body can increase the risk of heart disease and contribute to the hardening of arteries. A high number of triglycerides can also lead to metabolic syndromes and inflammation of the pancreas. [9] 

Edipeel also reported residues of cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic, palladium, and heptane. However, because the levels of cadmium, mercury, and lead were equivalent to the amount allowed by the FDA, and everything else fell below the threshold, it wasn’t flagged, even though these toxins are known to harm the body. [6]  

Do Your own Research

There are other questions that the companies making these waxes and edible “peels” may not be forthcoming with. It’s good to consider all of these when doing your research. You also can’t assume the label of organic means those fruits are in the clear – many “organic” brands and stores decide to use peels and waxes. [10] Especially if they look like a good choice at first blush. 

This science is especially concerning when you remember that the wax isn’t meant to be removed with water, so rinsing it with water doesn’t necessarily take off that outer coating. [2] 

What Can You do About Fruit Wax? 

There are a couple of ways you can guard against consuming these films and waxes. 

Buy Farm Fresh.  

Make friends with a local farmer and buy direct. You can also go to your local farmer’s markets and buy freshly picked produce there. Sometimes, you can even find several farmer’s markets within driving distance. Another idea is to join a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. 

Plant a Garden 

Start growing your fruits and vegetables. If you have little ones, take the opportunity of educating them on where food comes from and how rewarding it can be grow it yourself. If you don’t have the space where you live, you may be able to find a local community garden to participate in. You may even make some new friends! 

Food Waxes Aren’t The Only Toxins Out There 

All forms of dis-ease come from our exposures to traumas, toxins, and thoughts. It can be easy to think we’re eating healthy foods when we’re actually consuming harmful ingredients unknowingly. This can apply to preservatives and waxes just as much as consuming foods we have on our allergies list.  

To get started on your journey back to vibrant health, contact a Wellness Way clinic. Wellness Way practitioners can help you address physical traumas, support healthy thought patterns, and detox from toxins like petroleum-based “foods.” A few simple lifestyle changes can have more impact than you might think! 

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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